When signing up for this course I thought I would discuss and learn about many different cultures and compare them. However, I did not know that the main concentration of this course would be talking about my culture. My mother is American Black and my father, whom I very seldom speak to, is African American and half Native American. Being so distant in relationship with my father I have never had the chance to learn about my other side. In the book On the Rez, author Ian Frazier displays a style of writing that is very different to me. I am personally more of a John Grisham or Sue Grafton, fiction/mystery type of reader, but here I am forced to concentrate on the situation and not just the details. He really tends to drag stories on just to get his point across, but in doing so he creates a vision of the event like no other. He attempts to touch our hearts with stories of the Oglala Sioux who live on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. This is done by first describing where Pine Ridge is located, in the plains and badlands in the middle of the United States, (Frazier, 2000, p.1). Until now, many people, including myself, have forgotten about the Native Americans because of their distance from the rest of society as we know it. A person like me really gets screwed out of heritage lessons because in grade school and high school we are only taught one side of the stories about history. Not giving us the chance to learn about certain things. For example, the government began forcing Indian children into schools and disciplining them for speaking their own languages. I complained in school about learning black history for only one week in the middle of February but is was useless. Twelve years of asking the right people didnt even help.
Much of this book orbits around Le War Lance, whom Frazier first met in the Great Plains. Le is pretty much a modern day Native American Virgil. With his yarn-spinning and heavy beer sippin, he introduces us to the hard facts of reservation life, which he referred to ironically as Indian America. They dont really want to be part of America but in many ways they are forced to. Frazier constantly gives us details, switching skillfully from journalistic reporting to historical analysis. At the start of the book, he bases us with history of the Oglala Sioux, meanwhile interacting with activity revolving around why he is so fascinated with Indian life. He also brings up key remarks that non-Indians make, such as Why cant they get with the program? (Frazier, 2000, p. 5) I totally without a doubt, agree with his answer to the question. I mean who do these people think they are. Think about it, if Russians came over to America took over the land, basically outlawed our languages, killed a lot of us, beat our children for speaking it, and forced us to learn Russian, would you voluntarily want to get with the program.For instance, he actually talks about a choice he made between moving to Moscow or to Missoula, Montana near the Indian reservations. When he visited Moscow he got as far as even enrolling his daughter in school and paper-skating for an apartment. But by then he realized no one understood him. You really dont know whether it was communism or convienience that drove him towards Montana.
After many descriptions of the reservations history, we find ourselves learning a lot about the bravery of old and new Sioux heroes. Some famous like Crazy Horse, and others whom are not as famous but should be like former high school basketball star SuAnne Big Crow. SuAnne was a big inspiration to me in this book because she brought up a lot of issues in my head that reminded me of myself. She was one who liked to have fun, play sports and get along with people from all different walks of life. In her lifetime she touched many peoples lives, mine included. She gives you assurance that you can blend in with all of society and never give up on your own culture. To me when people ask why hand around a variety of people, I simple explain to them that one group of people can never understand another group completely until they have been in their shoes. Well, since I am not too cool with the whole shoe sharing stuff, I will just walk next to them and listen to the footsteps. I have never changed my cultural beliefs just to accommodate someone else, but I do scoot some of them aside to listen. SuAnne should have been a great inspiration to everybody who read this book whether they agree with Indian cultures or not. She crossed boundaries that were uncrossable and allowed non-Indians to see another side. When she would dance before her games, she showed us that she loved her people and what they stand for. When she scored a basket, she motivated intercultural relationships between fans and players. When she died, she caused heartache and discomfort to thousands of people she met or befriended. Touching many lives in many different ways, from family to friends her memory will live on. A bright, glowing personality like this should be in everyones household.
From personal reflections to objective discussion of present reservation issues, and from inspiring stories of pride and heroism to depressing looks at the difficulty of present-day Native society, Ian Frazier captures the audience with heart warming stories. He tells us everything from how many Native Americans have a drinking problem to how many points SuAnne scored in a single game.
Frazier, I. (2000). On the rez.New York: Farrar, Stratus, and Giroux.